So, my beautiful husband and I had (for us) a huge fight last night. This doesn’t happen often. We’ve been together for the better part of 17 years, and while we do disagree sometimes, it’s rarely a raise-your-voice type of thing. Sometimes, though, you Really Disagree about something. And we did last night.
And it was about homeschooling.
Family Field Trip–In complete agreement
Here’s roughly how it went.
Me: Littlest is still having trouble with fractions, and I’m running out of ideas here. His brain works more like yours than mine and I really don’t know how to teach him this so he remembers.
Martin: Well, what’s the problem, exactly?
See, Martin is a genius at math, and over the years I have learned from him different ways of looking at how to solve problems. It has actually made my life easier, because he didn’t learn these things in school; he learned them by working on motors and building things. Real Life math. Somehow, it’s easier for my brain to absorb those things. But I will never be able to do what he does, because his brain is mathematically oriented and I’m… Well, I’m the Lit Mama. So I’ve always assumed Martin would see Littlest’s problems easily and help me solve them.
That is not how the conversation went. Sure, he made some suggestions, but to be honest they were things I’ve already tried. Like leaving the books and doing a two-week concentration on fractions. But I figured it couldn’t hurt to go through it all again, so I agreed to try it.
That’s not what we fought about. Here’s how That went.
Me: Okay, but what if it doesn’t work? He used to be ahead in math, now he’s getting behind. I’m putting all this pressure on myself to catch him up, and I’m afraid that pressure is leaking out to him and stressing him out. Which makes him unable to learn.
Martin: Here’s my problem with your homeschool…
You don’t give them homework, they don’t go to school as long as other kids, and when they get an answer wrong during class, instead of counting it wrong, you tell them the right answer.
Me: Whoa. Slow down right there. I don’t know a single homeschooling mother who gives her child homework, but I know hundreds of kids, parents, and public school teachers who think homework doesn’t serve any purpose. You do your school work In School so you don’t have to do homework.
Martin: But the aren’t accountable for anything. They don’t have to do anything themselves. They don’t have to figure out the answers and learn how to get them right on their own.
Me (voice starting to rise): Now, hang on. They’re at two different grade levels in math. They always do math on their own. And the older they get, the more work they do on their own in all of their subjects. That’s completely untrue and unfair. Besides, one of the things I Hate about public school is that they can’t take the time to tell their students Why their answers are wrong. I have that option, so we go over it in class. I’m not just going to go , “Nope, that’s wrong, you get a (insert grade), sorry ’bout it.” The point of this is to Really Teach them, not confuse them and grade them.
Martin: (Honestly, I didn’t hear what he said.)
Me (voice a little higher): Also, No One goes to school for 8 hours a day. Even in high school, if they have 7 classes they have 5 minutes between classes to get to their next class. If school ends at 2:30 (which it does here), that knocks them back to 2. They have lunch; that’s another half hour at least. That knocks them back to 1:30. 90% of them have a study hall, which knocks them back to 12:30. Our school lasts from 8 till around noon. Now tell me, how are my kids learning for less time than public school kids?
I admit, I was practically screeching by the end of that tirade. But, sheesh, I have to hear this crap all the time from people who don’t homeschool, now I gotta hear it in My Own House? I don’t think so. Not on my watch. So he says the following, which almost put me through the roof.
Martin (actually raising his voice, which he almost never does): Fine, don’t ever ask my opinion again. They can graduate and go to college or not. I don’t care; I wash my hands of it. It’s All On You Now. Don’t even talk to me about it.
This is the point where we both stopped. Me, mostly because I was thinking, Are you kidding me? Of Course it’s All On Me, why the bleep do you think I’m freaking out? Him, because he heard himself after the fact and realized he had said something really horrible. So we stared into space for a while, each refusing to look at the other or speak. I was still so angry I think I could have hit him. But I replayed the scene in my head and realized I might have interrupted and overreacted. I mean, I didn’t give him a chance to finish his thought, I just heard, “My problem with your homeschool,” and went ballistic. So I started to calm down, but still wasn’t ready to talk about it. Then, my beautiful husband said,
I apologize. Of course I care if the boys go to college, and I didn’t mean to imply that I think there are things wrong with your homeschool. I was just trying to say that maybe you should give them homework since they have time for it.
Well, then, Say That, for Pete’s sake. So I said, I’m sorry, too. I overreacted. But I put myself under enough pressure, have enough doubts about whether I’m doing this right. When it sounds like you’re doubting me, too, I guess I get scared.
Here’s the truth. Martin and I agree wholeheartedly that we should homeschool our kids. But we feel that way for different reasons. For me, it’s the lack of real learning that takes place in public schools. For Martin, it’s a safety issue. He hasn’t done the years’ worth of research I’ve done about homeschooling. He hasn’t talked to a hundred other mamas to find out how they do it so our homeschool can be tweaked and perfected. When he thinks of school, he thinks of public school. It’s where he comes from. So his ideas about homeschool are markedly different from mine.
It doesn’t mean he’s wrong. But it does mean we need to have another discussion about what we expect from all this. See, every one of us has a different reality. We see the world from a place of our own thoughts and experiences, and that doesn’t always coincide with even our closest companion’s. We forget that, sometimes. Don’t we? It means when I ask Martin’s advice, I need to listen to what he has to say without getting my… ahem… undergarments in a wad. Because his opinion matters, too. They’re his kids, too, and when he sees a problem, he needs to be able to address it.
He just needs to learn to word it better.
When a disagreement arises in your house over homeschool, make sure in your heart it’s something you really need to fight about. Because, honestly, having Littlest do some math homework is not really a bad idea. Getting him to do the problems in the afternoon so we can go over them the next day might just give him the freedom to learn this thing on his own. There are always going to be disagreements, especially if you’re coming at this thing from two different places. Don’t assume you’re right, even if you’ve been homeschooling for many years and have been in absolute charge of your littles’ educations and you think you’ve got it down. If you’re homeschooling in a two-parent household, both parents’ opinions matter. If you can’t see your way to agreement, see your way to compromise. It might be the best thing you ever did for your littles. It could open up a whole new world of learning for those precious kids. As long as you agree that your children Should Be homeschooled, you’re doing it right. Everything else is just details.
Just watch how you say it, when you offer advice.
Love wins (thank God),